Category Archives: Riding

Mark it up!

Get to grips with your dressage test and give your marks a boost with our tips

This month, we help you find the key to riding a quality dressage test and giving your marks a leg up. Whatever’s giving you trouble, we’ll cover all angles to get a great dressage test out of you and your horse.

  1. Absolute accuracy

Many riders throw away marks by not being accurate, so ensuring you are is a great way to stand out and put yourself above the competition. Any movements performed at a marker should happen as your shoulder passes it. This might mean you need to start asking a little earlier if your horse is behind your leg, or half halt to balance him beforehand. Practise this by riding transitions at your markers until you can be sure your horse will respond as soon as you ask him a question, as this will help you ride exactly as the test dictates, gaining you those handy extra marks.

  1. Walk this way

A pace that’s often forgotten, your horse’s walk is still an important part of your dressage test. Encourage him to march on, taking the rein forward even when you’re warming up or cooling down, as this sets the precedent for all your work. With double marks available for the free rein walk, make sure you allow your hips to swing with your horse’s movement and gradually loosen the rein to push him forward and stretch down. If you drop the rein too quickly, you’ll find his stretch will be inconsistent, and he may throw his head up. Then, make sure you don’t lose any of that impulsion when you then pick him back up again. He should track up and seek the contact in all three of his paces, so be disciplined and maintain that dedication whatever the gait.

  1. Give and take

Introduced at even the lowest levels of dressage, a good give and retake can be a tough trick to tackle. Initially, you’ll only be required to give one rein, and you may find it easier to practise on the long side to start with. You could ride a 10m circle first to help him use his hocks and come off the forehand, then proceed up the long side and have a go at your give and retake. Get used to riding him off your leg and seat, alternately giving your reins at random during your schooling session. You’ll quickly learn when you need to put a little more leg on or stay a bit quieter in your seat to maintain that steady outline. Gradually build up to trying on a circle, ensuring that your horse can maintain the bend by himself using your inside leg. This will then ensure that your horse is between both your legs when you go on to give and retake both reins.

Practising at home and implementing this tips throughout your test are super ways to boost your marks this competition season. Discipline is key with whatever you’re doing, so get used to riding a quality walk and create those good habits now. There’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared by a brand new movement you haven’t seen before, so practise your give and retakes throughout your sessions so they become second nature.

For all your equestrian need visit bridlewayequestrian.com

It’s Show(ing) Time!

Showing Season is upon us! If you’re taking the plunge and entering your first ever show this summer, this blog will help you and your horse feel ready to shine.

Showing is all about preparation – from your horse’s fitness routine and building that all-important top line, to perfect plaits, last-minute touch-ups and ring etiquette. As you get ready for your first show, our top tips and essentials will help cover what you need to know.

Show ring shine

Good health and nutrition is key to having a horse who positively shines, but there’s a whole lot more to good turnout. Unless you’re showing a native type, ensure his mane is pulled or trimmed to a suitable length for plaiting. We’d recommend that you do this at least a week before your show to give the mane time to settle.

The day before your show, treat your horse to a bit of pampering and give them a full bath – make sure you pay particular attention to any white markings! If your horse is prone to rolling, a lightweight sheet will help to keep him clean overnight without overheating. A Universal Sheet or Waffle Cooler are great choices for this as their wicking properties offer safe cooling too. Once you’ve finished cleaning your horse, make sure your your grooming kit is clean and ready to take with you for any last minute touch-ups your horse might need on the day.

Essential Kit list

If you’re able to pack the lorry the night before, you’ll help take some of the pressure off getting ready. Here’s our handy list of things you might need to take:

  • Spare headcollar and leadrope
  • Water container and two buckets (one for drinking and one for washing)
  • Grooming kit, including sponges, conditioning spray and plaiting kit
  • Cooler rug
  • Haynet
  • Saddle (with a close fitting plain coloured numnah if required)
  • Plain brown bridle
  • Tweed or navy jacket (depending on your class)
  • Appropriate standard riding hat with velvet cover and hairnet
  • Beige or canary breeches
  • Shirt and tie or plain coloured stock
  • Long riding boots (keep them smart by using a boot bag)
  • Show cane (if using)
  • Plain coloured leather gloves

Top Tip

Grooming kit bags with lots of pockets are really handy as they keep all your brushes organised and ensure everything is easy to find.

On the day

On the morning of your competition, clean off any stains and section his mane ready for plaiting. The number of plaits will depend largely on the length and shape of your horse’s neck – but 9-11 is a good starting point.

Top Tip

Don’t condition your horse’s mane if you plan to plait as it will make the hair slippery.

When you arrive at the showground, check in with the secretary to collect your number and check which arena your class is in. Allow plenty of time to warn up your horse and get him settled in the exciting showground atmosphere.

When it’s time to go in, remember these etiquette essentials…

  • Always leave one-and-a-half to two horse’s lengths between your horse and the horse in front.
  • Never overtake the horse in front of you. Either ride deep into the corner to create more space or circle away and find a bigger gap amongst the other horses.
  • Keep an eye on the steward so that you’re clear when they instruct you to trot and canter.
  • Wait to be called into line, then watch the other competitors ride their individual show and plan yours – making sure you show trot and canter on each rein.
  • When it’s your turn, step forward from the line before riding a halt transition and saluting the judge.
  • At the end of your show you should also halt and salute before returning to your place in the line up.

Most of all, make sure you enjoy your first showing adventure with your horse!

Best of luck!

Winter training tips from Bridleway Equestrian

Winter training exercises to get you and your horse ready for spring

If, like many, your horse has been enjoying a bit of a break over the winter, you might be hoping to kick-start the year with some productive time in the saddle. Here are some simple-but-effective exercises for you to try.

Exercise 1: Fitness first

Before asking your horse to tackle a long and difficult schooling session, it’s important you make sure his fitness levels are up to the task – particularly if he’s been completely out of work for a few weeks. It might mean three, four or more weeks of purely hacking, but it could mean the difference between your horse having a complete and successful competition season or picking up an injury along the way.

Once your horse is hacking comfortably for an hour or more a day with plenty of trot and canter work, incorporating hillwork will help boost his fitness. It works and strengthens all areas of his body, and combining it with transitions will go a long way to improving his muscle tone, too.

Try cantering up a hill, walking back down and repeating. Combined with the additional intensity of going uphill, these bursts of intensity followed by recovery – also known as interval training – will help strengthen your horse’s respiratory system and build him up to the sustained cardiovascular efforts he’ll have to make in competition.

Top tip: vary your hillwork by occasionally walking and trotting up hills as well as cantering, otherwise your horse may start to anticipate canter at the bottom of them.

Exercise 2: Side to side

Once your horse has attained a level of fitness that will allow you to school him for a sustained period, incorporating leg-yield in walk, trot and canter will help him become more flexible and supple through his shoulders, back and pelvis, while encouraging him to come through from behind in order to make the effort to cross his legs while maintaining his rhythm.

Start by asking for leg-yield from the three-quarter line to the track, and when you’re both comfortable, try from the track to the three quarter line, continuing straight for a few strides before leg-yielding back. To add a further challenge, try to reach the centre line as you leg-yield down the arena long side.

Exercise 3: Making shapes

If you’re hoping to get some jumping outings under your belt, cracking the code to the perfect canter and approach is a key part of your training. You can achieve this by riding a simple rectangle. This will help you achieve and maintain an active rhythm, while encouraging you to use your inside and outside aids evenly and engaging your horse’s hindquarters underneath him.

Working between the track and the centre line, place a marker just inside the track at M and F, and just inside the centre line at D and G. Place a pole horizontally at X. Each marker should prompt you to turn as if you’ve reached a T-junction – a 90° angle to follow the line of the rectangle shape. Focus on using your outside leg to prompt him to turn, rather than pulling him round with your inside rein. Try in walk first, before progressing to trot and canter, and try swapping your pole for a small jump.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

 

 

 

Handling the Heat – 10 Tips for Better Summer Riding

The UK is currently experiencing the longest heatwave it’s had in five years. Over lots of cool water and an ice cream or two, Bridleway’s team have been discussing how we, and our horses, have been coping with this beautiful but troublesome weather.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you handle the heat when riding this summer:

  1. Change your routine
    Ride in the coolest parts of the day, avoiding the midday sun. Get up early or wait a bit longer in the evening before riding to make sure you and your horse don’t overheat when you’re out. Consider stabling your horse during the hottest part of day too, as this will protect them from the sun and pesky flies.
  2. Use fly spray AFTER you tack up
    A good fly spray is a lifesaver for horse and rider in the summer months, as it is the peak season for horseflies and midges. However, remember to only apply to your horse’s coat after you’ve tacked up – fly spray under a confined area, like the saddle, can cause irritation when your horse sweats.
  3. Choose breathable fabric for your horse
    Even when riding during the cooler parts of the day, keeping your horse dry and cool is important. By choosing a saddlecloth and girth that are made with a breathable or wicking fabric, your horse will stay comfortable. Saddlecloths made from a quick-dry fabric will draw away moisture from your horse and keep him cool. Plus, an ergonomic girth like the Contour Comfort Girth allows greater airflow and reduces moisture, minimising the risk of rubbing or chafing.
  4. Protect yourself
    Whether you’re riding in an open arena, hacking out, or just doing yard work, remember to keep yourself protected too. Stay in the shade where possible, regularly top up your sun cream, and wear breathable clothing, like riding tights or a base layer. The base layer’s moisture wicking properties will keep you feeling fresh, and longer sleeves, whilst sounding counterproductive, will protect your skin from the sun and do a better job at keeping you cool than short sleeves.
  5. Stay hydrated
    Whilst long hacks aren’t advisable during the hottest parts of the day, if you are out for a while, take supplies with you in a handy bum bag. A bottle of water and an energy bar will keep you going and help replace the nutrients and water you’ll lose when you sweat. Offer your horse water on return from your ride and don’t forget to have a drink yourself.
  6. Use a fly veil
    Your horse’s ears are a sensitive spot that flies love to attack. Keeping them covered with a fly veil can protect them from biting insects and have the added benefits of blocking noise and looking good too (especially when paired with a matching saddlecloth!).
  7. Avoid still or stagnant water
    From puddles to ponds, areas of still water are a breeding ground for midges. If your usual hack takes you near a pond, try and find an alternative route to stop your horse getting pestered.
  8. Take it steady
    A lack of rain and constant sunshine dries out the ground, making for uncomfortable footing for your horse. When hacking, try to avoid riding too quickly on hard ground or rocky surfaces. Keep to a walk or trot, as this is less likely to cause damage to your horse’s legs. Stick to an arena for your faster paced schooling work.
  9. Don’t forget the cool down
    Once you’ve returned from your ride, take your time to cool your horse down properly. Sponging or hosing him off will help bring his temperature down and a good body wash brush and sweat scraper will help make the process easier. Don’t forget to reapply the fly spray once he’s dry and pop on a fly mask and lightweight fly sheet for extra protection.
  10. Make cooling treats for your horse
    After a warm ride, your horse will need to cool down and stay hydrated. Help him by using handy tricks that encourage him to drink more, such as adding apples for him to bob for in his water trough or bucket. Another fun idea is to create a frozen horse lick with water and chopped up apples and carrot. He’ll be cool, hydrated and kept amused with his very own ice lolly!

Hopefully these 10 tips will help you and your horse stay comfortable and make the most of this British heatwave.

For all of your summer equestrian needs, visit your local Bridleway stockist or  www.bridlewayequestrian.com

Perfect Protection

For all horsey people, their trusty four-legged friend’s safety is paramount and thankfully, there’s a wealth of kit available to fit every horse, from fine-boned Thoroughbreds to chunky cobs.

However, it’s also important to consider your own safety. Rider protection takes many different forms, be it high-visibility clothing or riding hat bags to cushion your most vital piece of safety gear.

Best foot forward

Boots and bandages come in a wide range of colours and styles, and can be used for a variety of purposes, including competition, travel and training, to help protect your horse from cuts and bumps while he’s out and about. Brushing boots are suitable for daily exercise, while over reach boots help protect the bulbs of his heels. The Bridleway Fleece Trimmed Quick Fit Over Reach Boots are available with a fleece lining that reduces the risk of rubbing or discomfort.

Shine bright

Making sure you can be seen is essential while hacking out, especially on the road. A simple piece of high-viz, such as a hatband or vest, helps you to be seen up to two seconds earlier by other road users. Bridleway’s stunning range of orange high-viz clothing is designed to make you and your horse stand out while out on the road.

Buzz off

At the height of the summer, pesky flies irritate us all. Relieve the stress by kitting your horse out with fly masks, veils and rugs to reduce the risk of fly bites and to help alleviate itching. Choose from Bridleway’s range of fly rugs and team up with a fly mask to create the best combination for your horse to keep him fly free. For ultimate fly protection, treat him to a Bridleway Sweet-Itch Bug Stoppa rug, which has breathable fabric to keep him cool on a hot summer’s day. In addition, liberal use of fly spray is a good idea, and you can also buy creams or gels for sensitive areas.

Ahead of the game

Protecting your head is the first port of call for rider protection, but it’s also important to protect your helmet. Invest in a padded hat bag to keep your hat safe from dirt and damage while on the move. Many bags include pockets to store extra essentials such as gloves, which help to protect your hands and improve your grip on the reins.

Protection is priceless for both yourself and your horse, so head over to bridlewayequestrian.com for all your safety needs.

jumping success Bridleway Equestrian

Jumping success – exercises to try at home

Jumping at home is something a lot of riders enjoy, but without the help of an instructor it can be hard to know what to work on. Setting up one fence to pop over a few times on each rein might be fun for a few minutes, but there’s not much for you and your horse to learn from it. Here are a few simple exercises to help inspire you to take your jumping at home to the next level.

On the grid

Gridwork is very effective for improving horse and rider technique and confidence. A line of fences in quick succession encourages your horse to concentrate and pick up his feet, while your position is tested as the lower leg becomes an anchor, and the urge to over-fold must be resisted.

Another benefit of gridwork is being safe in the knowledge that you’ll hit every fence on a perfect stride and in a powerful canter every time. Using a grid to set you both up to a stride or two before an oxer makes trying bigger fences feel easier and less daunting.

Start with a three-bounce fence in a line, each 3–3.7m apart, and a fourth another 6.4-7.5m away to ride as one canter stride. Remember to build the fences up slowly – don’t just ask your horse to tackle the whole grid from the word go as this might knock his confidence.

A different angle

Jumping fences on angles encourages your horse to think on his feet and will give you a real advantage in a jump-off situation. After you’ve warmed him up over a couple of fences, set up a small upright in the middle of the school for ease of approach from A on both reins. Keep the place pole under the original line of the fence, but move the right-hand wing around slightly towards E. This will create an angled, corner-shape fence with a ground line that’s easy for your horse to interpret.

As your horse grows in confidence, you can create a steeper angle with the fence and even place the ground line directly beneath it to make the exercise more challenging.

Get creative

The most important aspect of your jumping is that both you and your horse enjoy yourselves. If you’ve been asking a lot of him recently with difficult exercises and competitions, why not try taking a more relaxed approach to jumping every once in a while – it’s possible to do this and still teach him something.

Instead of demanding a high degree of technical accuracy, try jumping some small yet unusual obstacles he might not have encountered before. Maybe you have some plastic barrels lying around, or some tarpaulin that can be fashioned into a makeshift water tray? Asking him to approach some new and interesting fences will not only boost experience and bravery, it’ll give you the chance to learn how to ride positively into fences he may have doubts about.

Don’t forget to protect your horse’s legs with boots when you’re jumping. See Bridleway Equestrian’s range of affordable boots and bandages at bridlewayequestrian.com.

Keep him supple with our schooling tips for hacking

Varying your riding environment is an important part of keeping your horse happy and interested in his work – you don’t want to stay at home doing the same things every day and neither would he. Using your hacking time to occupy his mind and work on any schooling issues in a fun, pressure-free environment is really beneficial, particularly if you don’t have easy access to an arena. Here are some tips to get you started

Long and low

Asking your horse to take up the contact and stretch into a long-and-low outline can be an effective warm up. Not only does it encourage him to relax into the contact, he’ll also raise and engage his back, working the muscles that support a correct ridden frame. Be sure to work him gradually down so that contact is maintained – if you just drop your reins, you’ll loose your connection.

Time to flex

Keeping your horse’s body straight and his gait forward, use your rein to ask him to flex from one side, then to the centre, then to the other side. This exercise will warm him up while testing his suppleness and obedience. It’ll also free up his neck, preparing him for any more complex questions you’ll ask of him later.

Side to side

The flat, stable surface of a quiet path is a perfect setting for asking your horse to leg-yield. This movement requires him to use his whole body and reinforces the idea that your leg aid doesn’t just mean go, but can also mean move away. This exercise requires straightness and engagement, so is a good indicator of how well he’s working. It’ll also reveal any corrections you need to make in your riding or his way of going. Make sure you check the path is clear of pedestrians both ways before attempting a leg-yield.

Shoulder showdown

Now he’s warmed up through his neck and back, you can start asking your horse to engage through his whole body by asking for shoulder-fore, Make use of hedges and fence lines to help guide your horse as you ask his front end to bend slightly away while keeping him travelling forwards. However, be sure not to allow him to over-bend.

Going in circles

Coming across an open field out on a hack is a huge bonus because you can use it as a giant school. Take the opportunity to play with the space, performing transitions, circles and changes of bend through serpentine work to encourage suppleness. Be vigilant to falling out, though, as there won’t be any fences to help prop your horse up!

Don’t forget visibility for you and your horse when you’re out and about. For high-viz and everything you’ll need out on a hack, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

Make the most of your hacking

There’s nothing nicer than a hack after work or getting out for a longer, lazier one over the weekend. But hacking comes with its own risks, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to expect.

Kitting both you and your horse out in high-vis clothing is an essential part of preparing to set off. High-vis kit means drivers can see you around three seconds sooner than they would otherwise – that might not sound like much, but at 30mph that’s a braking distance equivalent to a standard dressage arena. High-vis is also important in the event of an accident, as it will make you much easier for a rescue team or paramedics to spot. There are options available to suit everybody, from tabards and hat bands for you to leg wraps and exercise sheets for your horse. Bridleway have a great selection for you to pick from, here.

Just as when you’re driving, there are rules of the road for horse riders, too. Stay to the left-hand side and use arm signals to help other road users know where you’re going. Stick your arm out to the side to indicate left or right, or directly out in front of you with your palm up if you need to ask a car to slow down or stop. Avoid waving cars past, as you might be liable if there’s an accident, but do remember to thank them if they pass you in a considerate manner. Try to ride in single file where possible, but if one horse is skittish in traffic then it’s safer to ride two abreast with a safe, calm horse on the outside.

Here are some things to think about when you’re preparing for a hack…

  • How might the time of day affect the traffic conditions? During rush hour and the school run, traffic will be heaviest and people will be in a hurry.
  • What’s the weather like? Dark, gloomy conditions will make you less visible, even if you’re wearing high-vis, and also make potential hazards harder for you to spot, too. Wet weather will make the roads slippery, which could mean it’s harder for cars to break in time. Sunny weather can have its own problems, too, as cyclists, walkers and motorbikers hit the roads to enjoy the beautiful weather.
  • Has anything changed recently? Roadworks, construction sites or lane closures could mean traffic behaves differently to usual. Even if these changes aren’t happening on your hacking route, they could still trigger a higher volume of traffic as people try to avoid them.
  • What day of the week is it? It’s common knowledge in the horse world that wheelie bins contain equine-eating gremlins, so keep bin day in mind when you’re planning a hack. Also factor in local events, such as village fetes and sports matches, which could cause unusual sights, sounds and smells.

Bridleway has all you need to enjoy plenty of hacking adventures with your horse. Visit bridlewayequestrian.com to see our extensive range of horse and rider kit.

Improve your jumping skills

Get kitted out
Before you start jumping, it’s important that you and your horse are correctly kitted out. You’ll need an up-to-standard riding hat and gloves, and it’s worth considering a professionally fitted body protector, too. It’s important that your horse’s tack is comfortable and fits him well. He may also benefit from wearing boots to protect his legs, and reduce the risk of knocks and scrapes.

A winning warm-up
Before you start jumping, it’s vital to warm up properly to get your horse listening and prepares his muscles for work, reducing the risk of injury. Ride lots of circles and transitions, both between and within the paces, to make sure he’s paying attention. This also helps to create adjustability and balance, which are very important once you start jumping.

Strides apart
Being able to get the correct number of strides between fences is a vital skill, particularly when you’re jumping a course. To practise, set out two poles four strides apart and ride through them in canter, aiming for a balanced, even rhythm. Once you can consistently achieve the four strides each time you ride through the poles, aim to extend your horse’s canter so you can get three strides, then collect it so you can fit in five.

Gridwork is great
Gridwork is your best friend when you’re trying to improve your jumping technique. It’s a good place to build your horse’s confidence, as it’s easy for him to understand what you’re asking. Build a simple grid of three fences with two strides (10–11m) between each, and put a placing pole three metres in front of the first fence to help your horse take off in the correct place. Start with the fences as poles on the ground – trot over them a few times, then try again in canter. Once your horse can canter over the poles in a balanced rhythm, turn them into small cross-poles one-by-one, starting at the end of the grid. Don’t add in another fence until your horse is confident with what you’re asking, then gradually increase the height.

Build confidence
Don’t be tempted to put the jumps up straight away. It’s much better, and safer, to keep them small and work on improving your technique, rather than jumping a height that you’re not prepared for. Once you’ve perfected your position and your horse is jumping confidently and correctly, gradually increase the height of the fences at a pace that suits both you both – a knock to your confidence could set you back.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com.

Managing mud fever

Managing mud fever

Winter means wet, muddy conditions and the threat of mud fever. As with most problems, prevention is better than a cure, particularly as, once your horse has had mud fever once, he’s more likely to get it again.

What is mud fever?

The bacteria that cause mud fever (Dermatophilus congolensis) commonly live on your horse’s skin without causing any problems. However, prolonged time spent in damp, muddy conditions can compromise the skin’s barriers, allowing the bacteria to penetrate. The result is an acute inflammatory reaction, usually found in the heel bulbs and the back of the pasterns. Symptoms include crusty scabs, pus between the skin and scabs, lesions, hair loss, heat and swelling.

Top tips for preventing mud fever

  1. Limit the time your horse spends in muddy conditions. Fence off areas that get muddy, such as around gateways. Rotate paddocks avoid poaching and consider stabling your horse for a period of time each day to allow his legs to dry out.
  2. Specialist boots and leg wraps can help keep his legs clean in the field. These prevent excess exposure to moisture, as long as mud doesn’t get underneath and rub his skin. Wash them regularly to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Apply a barrier cream to your horse’s clean, dry legs when he’s turned out to prevent moisture reaching his skin.
  4. Brushes, boots, bandages and clippers can all harbor bacteria, so clean and disinfect them regularly. Avoid sharing between horses, as this increases the risk of spread.

Treatment steps

If you notice your horse is showing signs of mud fever, here’s how to treat the infection and prevent the bacteria from spreading…

  1. Remove your horse from the cause of the infection, which will usually involve stabling him. If this is the case, walk him in-hand regularly to prevent his legs from swelling and increase blood circulation.
  2. Clip the infected area and use an antiseptic wash to soften and remove as many of the scabs as possible.
  3. Rinse the area and dry with a clean towel.
  4. Apply a topical antibacterial treatment to soothe the skin.
  5. Severe cases with obvious infection may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, so you may need to call your vet.

Did you know?

The same bacteria that cause mud fever can also cause rain scald. This infection tends to occur on your horse’s neck and along the top of his back ­– the areas that get the wettest when it rains. To prevent rain scald, make sure your horse is kitted out with a good-quality turnout rug and has access to adequate shelter.

Whatever you and your horse require, Bridleway is the place to shop this winter. Visit http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com to see our great selection of products.